When a party files a personal injury lawsuit against a defendant, the case proceeds through several stages before ultimately going to trial. One of the most important and most contentious phases in a personal injury lawsuit is the pre-trial discovery phase.
During the pre-trial discovery phase, parties make requests for certain evidence from the opposing party. A party can only request relevant evidence or evidence that may give rise to the discovery of additional relevant evidence. Once a party makes a request for certain evidence, the judge will rule on the request. If the judge orders that the requested material be released, the party in possession of the evidence must comply. A failure to comply can result in sanctions.
Sanctions for violating pre-trial discovery vary, depending on the type and severity of the violation. It is not unheard of for a court to dismiss a plaintiff’s case if he or she withholds evidence from the defense. If a defendant withholds evidence, the court can prevent the introduction of other evidence or issue a fine. However, any fine imposed can only be for the amount of money the plaintiff had to expend due to the defendant’s bad faith. A recent U.S. Supreme Court case illustrates this principle.
The Facts of the Case
The plaintiffs filed a product liability lawsuit against Goodyear after a Goodyear tire blew out on the plaintiffs’ motorhome. During the discovery process, the plaintiffs requested the results from any tests that the company had performed on the tire. Goodyear was slow to respond to the request and eventually explained that no tests had been conducted. Before the case reached trial, it was settled for an undisclosed amount.
A few months after the settlement, it was revealed that Goodyear had conducted tests on the tire, and the company had intentionally concealed the results from the plaintiffs. The plaintiffs then asked the court to impose discovery sanctions on Goodyear. The court imposed a $2.7 million fine, which was the entire amount the plaintiffs spent on legal fees. In case a higher court reversed that award, the court imposed a contingent fine of $2 million.
The Supreme Court Reverses Both Fines
The Supreme Court reversed the lower court’s fines, finding that neither complied with the law, which required that only compensatory damages be issued based on allegations of bad faith. The court explained that the plaintiffs only should be compensated for the costs that were caused by the bad faith. Since the lower court did not provide analysis supporting the $2 million award, both awards were reversed, and the lower court was ordered to calculate the actual costs incurred by the plaintiffs.
Have You Been Injured in a South Florida Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently been involved in any kind of South Florida accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. The skilled tire defect attorneys at the law firm of Friedman, Rodman & Frank have extensive experience assisting their injured clients with seeking the compensation they deserve. To learn more, and to discuss your case with a dedicated personal injury attorney, call 877-448-8585 to schedule a free consultation today.
More Blog Posts:
Florida Appellate Court Determines Water Company May Be Liable in Slip-and-Fall Case, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published May 4, 2017.
State Court of Appeals Invalidates Nursing Home Arbitration Contract, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published April 13, 2017.